Our Idiot Brother Directed by: Jesse Peretz Cast: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 26, 2011
PLOT: After being released from jail, hippie brother Ned (Rudd) moves back to the city to live with his sisters (Banks, Deschanel, Mortimer).
WHO'S IT FOR?: While Our Idiot Brother might have Rudd at the center, the weight is of the movie is just as much on his supporting sisters. Our Idiot Brother has that Hollywood malleability that people (like Harvey Weinstein, probably) dream about – it can either be about a single brother or three sisters equally. It's for guys and gals.
EXPECTATIONS: A Sundance favorite featuring Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks should always be appealing. Just how charming could Rudd be as a shaggy haired "idiot"?
Paul Rudd as Ned: Ned might be dropped into our lives like a foreign species with a condescending movie title to his name, but it’s up to us to realize that he might be more human than we are. Rudd’s character is the definition of amicable, and doesn’t seem to have the part in his brain that allows him to lie. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff (he simply smiles to himself when a girl rejects his date offer) and he understands that humans are prone to error. He’s an ideal pal, and he doesn't bother passing judgment on anyone. He trusts that people are good. Aside from his association with illegal drugs, what’s really preventing him from being someone we should idolize? Nothing. Ned for sainthood. Score: 8
Elizabeth Banks as Miranda: She’s the most uptight of all the sisters, as she’s a fledgling writer desperate for the big scoop that will get her recognized. Her interactions with neighbor/possible love interest Jeremy (Adam Scott) are some of the funniest moments in the film. Banks fits neatly into this strict character while still maintaining her comedic presence. Score: 7
Zooey Deschanel as Natalie: The Cotton spokesperson and Winnie the Pooh theme singer offers some awkward charm here as a poor stand-up comedian with strange comic delivery. Both her stand-up and general situations in the movie make for some very amusing plainly awkward moments. Out of the three sisters, her story feels the shortest, even though it has got as much dramatic weight as any of sisters’, if not more. She doesn’t play this role with a large winking expression, as her on-screen partner played by Rashida Jones seems to. Score: 7
Emily Mortimer as Liz: Married to documentary director Dylan (Steve Coogan), Liz is the sister with possibly the least interesting of dilemmas, as simmering marriages and child influence is a little less typical than the other “problems” Ned becomes apart of. We can certainly sympathize with Mortimer’s character, but we aren’t left wanting more screen time, as we are with her sisters. Score: 6
TALKING: This is a comedy that chooses dialogue over physical comedy, and such a choice pays off greatly. While it might pile on its amount of conversations between Ned and those who think in one way or the other that he’s an idiotic nuisance, such interactions are quite funny. They’re also filled with great timing for awkward humor, making any extension of purely dialogue driven scenes a joy to watch. Score: 8
SIGHTS: Next to a movie like Submarine, this is a hipster's dream. It's got a lot of v-necks in the costume design, Zooey Deschanel and a big glasses-wearing Rashida Jones are in a lesbian relationship with one another, and Paul Rudd is dressed like any bartender at a place that only sells PBR. Our Idiot Brother puts the "hip" back in "hippie." Score: 6
SOUNDS: Carole King's Beautiful plays sweetly during the end credits. The movie has a pretty eclectic soundtrack mixing ear-catching modern tunes and classic gems. A couple of Willie Nelson songs are mixed with tunes like Eric D. Johnson's rendition of "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree." Although the Dixie Chicks are mentioned, we don't hear their music. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: The first family dinner we see with the family is a fairly uproarious moment, and offers some prime awkward giggles that set the pace for the rest of the movie.
ENDING: Ned opens a recyclable candle wax store with his ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend played by TJ Miller. After retrieving Willie Nelson, Ned ends up with life's biggest reward of all - Katie Aselton.
QUESTIONS: While it does offer these ruminations, Our Idiot Brother also has a gap in its understanding. This is the type of movie that could use a little more back-story to its center-family, and especially Ned. If Rudd’s character were some type of mythical character, it may not feel so necessary, but it’s clear from even before he goes to jail that he’s got a honesty “issue.” So when did it start? Did being a hippie have anything to do with this, or is this what made him a hippie? Are his sisters even surprised by his behavior? One simple flashback to the family in younger days could have solved this (and would have made for great imitation comedy, too).
REWATCHABILITY: This is a film I'd definitely watch again to both laugh with the jokes, look at the pretty people, and get a good dosage of this movie's general goodness. More likely than most other human beings on this planet, I think I'd like to hang a picture of Ned somewhere in my room, the way people do saints and personal rock stars.
As story gravity always seems to unbalance whenever a black sheep returns to their dysfunctional herd, everything seems to fall apart when the sisters’ title sibling stumbles back into their lives. But, Our Idiot Brother is different from similar-looking movies (and certainly special) because it puts the necessity for honesty at the center of all conflicts. However simple such a requirement might seem, it’s just as Billy Joel once sang: “Honesty is such an ugly word, everyone is so untrue.” That, and it’s not often we get a comedy with such a great cast, and this amount of laughs.
The comedy's largest charm, other than Ned, is its dream cast of funny people. Its three sisters are especially well cast, and each character is developed with true personality. It’s in this aspect that the script underestimates its on-screen sisters, as they don’t all share scenes as much as they should. A certain meltdown between the three (while Ned is on the trampoline, nonetheless), is a great example of their special chemistry that the movie would benefit from showing more of it.
Our Idiot Brother is the kind of unique movie that doesn’t require our full emotional attention to still influence us with its positive attitude. With its funny cast that features the sunny Paul Rudd and his sweetheart on-screen sisters, this little gem has got pounds of organic laughs and some great vibes. It just makes you feel good, man.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10